58 episodes

This is a historical show examining the momentous events and interesting people of the second decade of the 19th century, the 1810s. From Jefferson to Napoleon, from Iceland to Antarctica, historian Sean Munger will give you a tour of the decade's most fascinating highlights.

Second Decade Recorded History Podcast Network

    • History
    • 4.6 • 144 Ratings

This is a historical show examining the momentous events and interesting people of the second decade of the 19th century, the 1810s. From Jefferson to Napoleon, from Iceland to Antarctica, historian Sean Munger will give you a tour of the decade's most fascinating highlights.

    Theo the Pipe Smoker

    Theo the Pipe Smoker

    The bodies of dead human beings can tell us a lot about the past, but most human remains from the distant past tend to be rich or important people. A discovery in Basel, Switzerland in 1984 proved an exception to this rule when a number of skeletons were recovered from a forgotten graveyard for the city’s poor. One particular set of bones entranced researchers because of two strange notches found in his front teeth. An exhausting effort to identify the man known only as “Theo the Pipe Smoker” would eventually involve a worldwide search for his relatives, sophisticated DNA analysis, and possibly unearth evidence of a 200-year-old murder.
    In this episode of Second Decade, historian Dr. Sean Munger will profile the Theo case, the physical evidence from his bones, the historical questions raised by his discovery, and the possible identities that he might have had. In doing so you’ll get a glimpse of life among Basel’s underclass, a world of bakeries, tanneries, factories and dead-end jobs where disease was rampant and economic survival precarious. You’ll meet the two men who are the most likely candidates for being Theo, who surprisingly died on the same weekend in 1816 but whose life stories are markedly different. We may not be able to reach a full resolution of the mystery of Theo, but the journey is illuminating.
    History Classes Online at Sean's Website
    Free Webinar on the Vietnam War, 17 November 2020
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    • 49 min
    Heritage Lost

    Heritage Lost

    America was growing rapidly in the 1810s, and growth meant building. Buildings of all kinds, from churches, markets and houses to banks and government offices, were sprouting up everywhere. Only a tiny fraction of the many buildings constructed between 1810 and 1820 still survive today, and the loss of the majority—through demolition, development, decay, accident, neglect, or deliberate destruction—represents a staggering loss of architectural heritage and history. Though many buildings have been lost, traces of some remain, through photographs, drawings, eyewitness accounts, memories, and, in a few lucky cases, some physical artifacts. These traces tell tantalizing and compelling stories of what the built environment of the Second Decade was like, and, by extension, glimpses of the lives of the people who lived and worked within it.
    In this unique, stand-alone episode of Second Decade, historian Sean Munger will profile 9 specific buildings, constructed between 1808 and 1820 and which no longer exist, that represent a piece of the architectural heritage of the decade. You’ll visit Federal-style mansions in Rhode Island, an Ohio courthouse built to try to lure politicians to a frontier boomtown, a market and exhibition hall at the center of Boston, more than one Southern plantation built by slave labor, a farmhouse that remained frozen in time for nearly two centuries, and several others. The stories of these buildings, the people who built them and why they were lost represent only a small portion of the enormous wealth of historical and architectural heritage of America that is now gone forever.
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    • 48 min
    Year Without Summer, Part III

    Year Without Summer, Part III

    The mysterious weather and climate anomalies of the Year Without Summer did not end with the coming of fall or the end of the calendar year 1816. The Tambora effect—the chilling of the world’s climate by volcanic dust from the 1815 mega-eruption—lingered long after that. The failure of summer crops in many parts of America, Europe and the world meant a lean and hungry winter for millions of people. And for many of them, the brutally cold winter of 1816-17 was much colder and more harrowing than any they had ever lived through before, or would again.
    In this episode, the final in this minseries, you’ll shiver along with missionaries and Indians on the frontier; you’ll learn about some of the bizarre theories that people advanced for what was causing the events, such as an “electrical fluid” around the Earth supposedly linked to earthquakes; and you’ll meet a very eccentric Scotsman whose obsession with weather, sparked by the 1816 anomalies, utterly consumed his life for the next half century. This episode contains threads that connect to various other SD installments, including Episode 6 (Jefferson in Winter), 7 (Volcano), 24 (New England’s Cold Friday), and 25 (The Man in the Buffalo Fur Suit).
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    • 51 min
    Year Without Summer, Part II

    Year Without Summer, Part II

    For many people around the world, 1816 was the oddest summer they ever lived through. Snow from the previous winter was still left in places well into the deep summer; rains and floods lashed central Europe; New England was cold and parched; and nearly everybody worried about what the anomalies were going to do to that season’s crops and foodstuffs. The effects of the strange weather ran deeper, however. It caused some people to be depressed and melancholy; others sought answers in prayers and religion; some, particularly in Europe, literally thought the end of the world was nigh. But everyone filtered the events through their own uniquely human experiences, reflecting a diverse range of reactions and world-views that our scientific understanding of the phenomenon can’t really communicate. 
    In this episode, the second in the series, you’ll experience a shocking midnight hallucination with Percy Bysshe Shelley; you’ll rub shoulders with recently-exhumed corpses in a New England cemetery; you’ll learn how making end-of-the-world predictions became a police matter in Italy; and you’ll ride along with a simple Massachusetts farmer as he tries to reap his stunted crops in a growing season where nothing was as it should have been. This episode contains threads that connect to various other SD installments, including Episode 14 (Down & Out at Harvard), 21 (Frankenstein), and 8 (Christmas 1814). 
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    • 55 min
    Year Without Summer, Part I

    Year Without Summer, Part I

    The “Year Without Summer,” 1816, is one of those things that many people have heard of, but very few know anything substantive about. It was the largest environmental event of the Second Decade. Two volcanic eruptions, one from an unknown mountain in 1809 and the second the disastrous blast of Mt. Tambora in April 1815, filled the atmosphere with toxic particulates and triggered a period of global temporary climate change. But what was it like on the ground to the people who lived through it? What does the name “Year Without Summer” really mean, and what doesn’t it mean? Who noticed it first, and how? These are some of the many questions still swirling around this much-misunderstood event in environmental history. 
    In this episode, perhaps the touchstone of the entire podcast, historian Sean Munger will take you to the frigid roads of New England during an unseasonable blizzard, and the decks of ships sailing the South Pacific in conditions that baffled even the most seasoned mariners as well as many other places in the strange spring and early summer of 1816. This is the central story of the Second Decade, and as such connects with numerous other SD installments, such as Episode 7 (Tambora), 13 (Lincoln), 3 (Frost Fair) and 24 (Cold Friday). This is the first of a projected three-part miniseries on the topic. 
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    • 53 min
    The Fires of St. John's

    The Fires of St. John's

    In the 1810s, St. John’s, Newfoundland was possibly the most remote and inaccessible corner of British America. Located on an island that was often icebound in the winter months, St. John’s was far from self-sufficient, depending on the Royal Navy for its food, building materials and governance. In February 1816, during the midst of an already dangerous winter made lean by economic depression, fire broke out on the city’s waterfront. It was only the beginning of a cycle of destruction that would char the streets of St. John’s four more times in just a few years, igniting class, ethnic and religious tensions as well as having political repercussions. This is the story of how St. John’s dealt with—or failed to deal with—numerous challenges to its very existence.
    In this episode, historian Sean Munger not only recounts the story of the fires themselves, but also examines the complicated social and political backdrop against which they occurred. You’ll meet the hapless and bronchial Royal Navy governor of Newfoundland, Francis Pickmore; you’ll learn why war meant feast and peace meant famine in St. John’s; and you’ll rub shoulders with the destitute Irish-born fishery workers who were reduced to picking through smoldering ruins for scraps of food. This is a story, not just of a series of disasters, but a community living on the edge whose ultimate survival was nothing less than miraculous. 
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    • 46 min

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
144 Ratings

144 Ratings

TheCobb13 ,

Amazing

Was never a history buff until this podcast! Thank you

P.Tomcavage ,

Personal

I find the format of focusing on the years between 1809 to 1820 extremely interesting. You get a sense of the individuals that lived through this time and how they felt experiencing these events. I hope to hear about the New Madrid earthquake one day.

Pepe_Mex ,

Great podcast!

I love 19th century history, so this podcast got my attention immediately . Very well researched and told stories.

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